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Musicals

Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story

March 22, 2018

Any further comparisons with the Broadway musical "Come From Away" end with the Nova Scotia setting as Chaim and Chaya quickly settle in Montreal where the 19-year-old Chaim marries the 24-year-old Chaya, who lost her husband on the trek from Romania to Russia to escape the pogroms. (Her husband died of typhus, which becomes a recurring theme in the story that unfolds.) To be sure, their tales are “dark” ones, as put together in the play by an apparent descendent Hannah Moscovitch of the real Chaim and Chaya. [more]

Calamity Jane

March 18, 2018

It would be a pleasure to say that Musicals Tonight! is going out on a high but that would not be accurate. While the book by Ronald Hanmer and Phil Park based on the play by Charles K. Freeman is very old-fashioned and the original score by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster is quite derivative, the real problem is with the production staged by Devin Vogel making his Off Broadway directing debut. While the Wild West material suggests color and ambiance, this "Calamity Jane" is devoid of those things. [more]

Speed Queen

March 9, 2018

Hilariously impersonating Marlene Dietrich while playing an accordion, singing and trotting about, is one of the grand highlights of performer Phoebe Legere’s "Speed Queen."  Spanning from W.W. I to the present, it’s a madcap lesbian historical and musical fantasia about Joe Carstairs, for which Legere has written the book and original score.  [more]

Jerry Springer – The Opera

March 9, 2018

"Jerry Springer - The Opera" is not for opera purists nor is for people who are easily offended by four letter words and other bad language of which there is a multitude. However, its irreverence skewers social, religious and political hypocrisy. The New Group’s production directed by John Rando is one of the most exciting musical theater experiences to be currently obtained in New York. It actually seems more relevant in Trump America where this sort of thing is cable-fodder every night of the week. If you are a dedicated theatergoer, miss this show if you dare. [more]

Locked Up Bitches

March 6, 2018

All the good jokes get lost in the onslaught of cast members vying for their moments and looking for the audience’s approval, which admittedly was offered freely.   "Bitches" becomes chaotic, crude and in your face, not to mention clichéd, the clichés hiding behind dirty jokes and blatant shtick.  Raine clearly can’t rein in the cast’s enthusiasm even though they are portraying animals with animal passions. [more]

Folk Wandering

March 6, 2018

They’re friends in the present. Someone picks up yellowed newspaper articles from the past.  Then we’re in New York City’s Lower East Side in 1911. We meet the spunky 13-year-old Roselia.  She is the daughter of immigrants and her goal is to become a muckraking journalist.  An exposé of the local butcher was one of her scoops that have been published.  Her older sister is to marry a genial young man.  Her parents are very affectionate but due to their hardscrabble circumstances it’s decided that after her impending 14th birthday, Roselia will leave school to join her mother and sister in working in a garment factory to bring in more money to the family. This heartbreaking thread is the most substantive, affective and dramatic of the three tales.  The girlish and luminous Lena Hudson makes a great impact as Roselia. Kate Loprest’s practical but maternal characterization of the mother is perfect.  “The House on Ludlow Street” is a haunting song that is woven through the narrative. [more]

Black Light

March 2, 2018

Thus begins the unique show, "Black Light," which is a concert cum confessional. In her sequenced gowns--and there are five costume changes during the 90-minute performance--and with her red lipstick and frizzy, frazzled, dark hair, Jones sometimes provides a strong, alto voice for her intermittent songs, ranging from ballads (“Crossroads”) to hard rock (“Life is motion”). [more]

Subways Are for Sleeping

March 1, 2018

"Subways Are for Sleeping" is a valentine to New York and projection designer Lacey Erb has created atmospheric slides and streaming video of such iconic locations as Grand Central Station, Park Avenue, Rockefeller Center and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Unfortunately, the original problem with the material has not been solved: Tom and Angie are just not very interesting. They have little or no back story and no outstanding characteristics. As was famously true in the original production, the show is stolen by the secondary leads. With their continually inventive schemes to get through each day, slacker Charlie who lives off his former friends and would-be nightclub performer Martha with her Southern accent are a total delight. Unfortunately, they are off stage most of the time. The rest of the many characters are simply walk-ons. [more]

The Boys from Syracuse

February 18, 2018

The cast seems to have been mostly chosen for their comic skills rather than their singing skills. Nevertheless, Josh Waldren and Matthew Fairless as the visiting travelers turn “Dear Old Syracuse” into a delightful soft shoe number complete with straw hats and canes, and Walden has a lovely duet with Darrell Morris, Jr. as Luciana to “This Can’t Be Love (Because I Feel So Well).” Shapiro's Luce  and Ian Fairlee as Dromio of Ephesus have a big success with the witty, “He and She,” a comic specialty number. However, much of the show has been eroticized and there is a “wink wink” feeling to the overall approach. [more]

Bar Mitzvah Boy

February 15, 2018

"Bar Mitzvah Boy" may not be a top-drawer Jule Styne musical, but Jack Rosenthal’s original story and David Thompson’s new book are excellently observed to have the ring of truth. The family chaos in planning the affair and problems precipitated by the young son’s behavior are sharply and shrewdly detailed enough to be absorbing in a way that all can relate to. Annette Jolles’ production for The York Theatre Company gets a great deal out of the material even in a version without the trappings of a full production. It is also a pleasant surprise to see an unfamiliar musical by major talents which fills in a gap in their careers. [more]

Hey, Look Me Over! New York City Center Encores! at 25

February 10, 2018

Writer-performer Bob Martin recycles his sweater-clad disaffected “Man in the Chair” character from his 2006 Broadway musical "The Drowsy Chaperone." The conceit is that he’s a disgruntled Encores! subscriber who has been chosen to pick his selections for inclusion. Mr. Martin addresses the audience to offer commentary, often tells inside jokes and interacts with the cast.  Depending on one’s sensibilities, this is either an inspired or an insufferable device. However, it doesn’t mar the actual production. [more]

Mr. Chekhov and Mr. Porter

February 2, 2018

The first act is a faithful and skillful hour-long condensation of "The Seagull." The second act is a clever hour-long vaudeville-style amalgam of "The Cherry Orchard," "Uncle Vanya" and "The Three Sisters" in the detailed manner of one of Mel Brooks’ cinematic parodies. [more]

Hallelujah, Baby!

January 31, 2018

While the new cut-down version (performed concert style with book in hand) with nine actors instead of the original 36, now covers 100 years, rather than the sixty in the original show, it still remains a shorthand version of the history of the movement as well as the trials and tribulations of African American performers in show business. Originally written with Lena Horne in mind, when she turned it down the starring role of Georgina Franklin went to newcomer Leslie Uggams and was subsequently revised to accommodate her softer, girl-next-door persona. Although her perky, animated performance won her the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical, Laurents was never happy with the compromises made to the show. The more tightly written show which now focuses on four main characters still doesn’t solve all the problems inherent in the material, as directed by Gerry McIntyre it does make for fast-paced musical entertainment with a great many unfamiliar songs. [more]

The Pill

January 29, 2018

This comedy/drama/fitful musical also suffers from major tonal challenges, as it strains to push all of our emotional buttons. It’s a shame, because the cast gives it their all. Particularly good is Zoe Wilson, as Leni, a severely depressed teenager whose body dysmorphia has led to self-cutting and bouts of suicidal ideation. Wilson is just the right mix of pained and angry. Whenever she speaks, or sings, The Pill feels centered and we’re ready to delve deeper into Leni’s personal struggles. [more]

Josephine: A Burlesque Cabaret Dream Play

January 23, 2018

The main event, however, is the performance of Harris who doesn’t just imitate Baker but uses her own gifts to illuminate the multitalented cult figure.  It’s as if Baker has brought out the best in Harris and she returns the favor with her vivid singing, unabashed dancing and direct connection with the audience. The songs include well-known ditties like “I’m Just Wild About Harry,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “Blue Skies,” a particularly moving “And Then I’ll Be Happy,” “Minnie, the Moocher,” the Civil Rights anthem “Strange Fruit,” “The Times They Are A-changing,” and a heartbreaking “La Vie en Rose.” [more]

America’s Favorite Newscaster

January 15, 2018

Another irony is that while Fury is kind of a bore, another character is not. Yeah, you guessed it. Him. When the president (David O. Friedman) appears in Fury’s bedroom like the Ghost of Christmas Present, Attea’s writing finally comes to life. His take on you-know-who isn’t unique, but the situation is wonderfully silly, and Friedman’s impression is a funny profile in petulance. [more]

The Band’s Visit

January 13, 2018

Yazbek’s songs—ranging from the darkly comic “Welcome to Nowhere” (sung by the town folk) to Dina’s romantically tinged “Omar Sharif” and ending with the upbeat, danceable “Concert” played as a finale by the Band—rise magically from the dialogue, just as Patrick McCollum’s choreography emerges naturally from walking, singing and thinking. [more]

Cruel Intentions: The Musical

December 28, 2017

As "Rock of Ages" did for the 1980’s, "Cruel Intentions: The Musical" does for the 1990’s. This is a carefree entertainment accompanied by the revelry incited by a two-item minimum in a nightclub. For many audience members, the Proustian pleasure of experiencing songs that they fondly recall shoehorned into the plot from a minor movie they might remember will suffice.  It’s decidedly not an event for musical theater connoisseurs. [more]

A Charlie Brown Christmas

December 25, 2017

Vince Guaraldi’s monumental jazz themes are beautifully rendered by musical director Jenny Shiroma on piano, Laura Hamel on percussion and Billie Sholen on bass. This talented trio also performs marvelous renditions of a number of classic holiday numbers including “The Christmas Song,” Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” from The Nutcracker, and “Silent Night.” Most crucially they do great justice to Mr. Guaraldi’s wistful “Christmas Time Is Here.” [more]

Bulldozer: The Ballad of Robert Moses

December 20, 2017

Moses’ famously crowded and contentious career is glossed over except for his final battle with Jacobs over the Lower Manhattan Expressway. "Bulldozer" doesn’t even give a good summary of his long and length exploits. Although the program lists the time scheme, there is nothing in the show to let us know how much time passes between any of the scenes. The dialogue does a lot of name dropping (Al Smith, Jimmy Walker, Fiorello LaGuardia, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Walter O’Malley) without making any of these people real. Hardly any of the songs forward the plot but instead tell us what we already found out in the preceding dialogue scene. The song lyrics have endlessly repeated refrains and choruses which is typical of rock and pop songs but death in a theatrical presentation in which we expect more information and cleverer wording. [more]

Irving Berlin: In Person

December 20, 2017

Deffaa’s great achievement is joining the narrative portions with just the right song.  An anecdote about encountering Florenz Ziegfeld having an office dalliance with a chorus girl is followed by “A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody.” “I Love a Piano” is preceded by Berlin’s extolling of his beloved piano nicknamed “Buick. ” [more]

Hundred Days

December 12, 2017

Written by The Bengsons and Sarah Gancher, the show presents a stylized take on the couple’s love at first sight meeting, the complications it caused with their partners at the time, their instant romance and quick marriage.  It’s a New York story as they lived in Astoria, there’s mention of a memorable walk from Canal Street to The Cloisters, and a trip to Coney Island is pivotal. [more]

SpongeBob SquarePants, The Broadway Musical

December 11, 2017

Decked out in nerdy regalia of a yellow shirt, red tie and plaid pants with suspenders, Ethan Slater is terrific as SpongeBob. The immensely personable Mr. Slater wonderfully sings, dances and acts with the force of a Broadway titan such as Robert Morse in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying." Using whiny vocal inflections and animated facial expressions, Slater perfectly replicates the essence of the television character. [more]

Once on This Island

December 7, 2017

Director Arden, a 2005 Juilliard graduate, has impressed with his reinvention of the 2015 Forest of Arden/ Deaf West Theatre revival of "Spring Awakening" for which he was nominated for a Tony Award. Among his clever additions to "Once on This Island" are the use of a chorus of eight to play the Storytellers who relate the tale through Ahrens’ book and lyrics, a new sonic palette for Flaherty’s calypso-tinged score with musical instruments made from found objects, and a set which puts us on the shores of the very island where the story takes place with the audience sitting on all four sides of this newly created beach. His young lovers Ti Moune and Daniel seem a good deal younger than before, making the story that much more romantic and ultimately more tragic. [more]

Cross That River: A Tale of the Black West

December 7, 2017

Serving as both narrator and protagonist, Harris portrays Blue, a runaway slave who crossed the Sabine River from Louisiana to Texas in search of his elusive freedom. To tell us everything that came before and after this momentous event, Harris is joined by three other impressive vocalists/performers in a concert-style presentation that has all the charm and verve of an old radio play. [more]

Home for the Holidays

November 22, 2017

"American Idol" winner Candice Glover, "The Voice"’s Josh Kaufman, "America’s Got Talent"’s Bianca Ryan and the attractive, married couple Peter Hollens and Evynne Hollens, who are popular on YouTube, comprise the youthful cast. They all bulldoze their way through more then 20 classics.  The vocal grandstanding is matched with overly expressive gestures and grimaces that invariably crush the meanings of the songs. [more]

The Mad Ones

November 17, 2017

Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk’s original book is filled with incidents, vignettes, reflections, observations, and flashbacks, but short on actual plot.  There is deciding on which college to attend, or not to go to college at all in order to find oneself, and the suspense of passing a driving test. A tragic occurrence is a major event. [more]

Billy and the Killers

November 12, 2017

In their new rock musical "Billy and the Killers," lyricist/librettist Jim Shankman and composer Peter Stopschinski channel Nicholas Ray, David Lynch, Elvis Presley, and Dashiell Hammett to concoct a muddled tale of teenage rebellion that dead-ends in an even less coherent murder trial. Along the way, there are some well-performed songs whose lyrics seem to be tied to the plot, but it’s often hard to tell, since, as you probably already know, proper enunciation is not what rock ‘n’ roll is all about, man. [more]

Of Thee I Sing (MasterVoices)

November 10, 2017

Leave it to George S. Kaufman and collaborator Morrie Ryskind (the Marx Brothers’ "The Cocoanuts," "Animal Crackers," "A Night at the Opera" as well as the Gershwins’ "Strike Up the Band"), lyricist Ira and composer George to come up with the first all satirical political musical and be prophetic as well. Led by Tony Award nominees Bryce Pinkham, Denée Benton, Kevin Chamberlin, Brad Oscar and Tony winner Chuck Cooper, this concert adaptation proves that there is still life in the 86-year-old musical. [more]

Red Roses, Green Gold

October 30, 2017

The score is comprised of Jerry Garcia & Robert Hunter’s Grateful Dead music and lyrics with additional music and lyrics by Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart, Bob Weir, and Bill Kreutzmann. It’s all an engaging patchwork well-realized by Jeff Chimenti’s polished musical supervision and arrangements. Though it’s wonderful experiencing such spirited renditions of Grateful Dead classics such as “Truckin,” “Casey Jones,” “Alabama Getaway” and “A Touch of Grey” by the talented ensemble, "Red Roses, Green Gold" doesn’t really cohere into a satisfying work of musical theater. [more]

This One’s for the Girls

October 29, 2017

During the jam-packed ninety minutes of "This One’s For the Girls," the foursome run through a batch of songs that show the ups and downs of the last one hundred or so years through the eyes of women. Ms. Marcic puts her characters through the romantic, social and professional wringer.  Their individual tales are illuminated by songs and clever dialogue, helped by the set design of Josh Iacovelli which includes walls painted with artful pictures of famous ladies and a continuous slide show of portraits and scenes of historic and social importance such as fashions, sheet music, popular literature and family portraits.  Mr. Iacovelli also designed the subtle lighting which makes the most of the tiny stage. [more]

Bells Are Ringing

October 24, 2017

Boycott gets to sing a bounty of scintillating songs including “It’s A Perfect Relationship,” “Is It A Crime?,” “I’m Goin’ Back” and her duets with Heuser in “Better Than a Dream” (written for the film version) and “Long Before I Knew You.” Colgan’s choreography includes witty dance numbers to “Independent,” “I Met a Girl”, “Mu-Cha-Cha,” and “The Midas Touch.” Sue and Otto have a hilarious parody of the operetta aria in “Salzburg (By the Sea),” and the singer and girls of the Pyramid Club do a clever take on a cut-rate Busby Berkeley number to “The Midas Touch.” [more]

{my lingerie play} 2017: THE CONCERT AND CALL TO ARMS!!!!!!!!! THE FINAL INSTALLATION

October 15, 2017

As the show progresses with intermittent songs, the other musicians/singers (Ryan McCurdy, Matt Park, and Rocky Vega) also strip down to their underwear/lingerie. The sounds they all make are, at times, infectious. And Oh is a natural-born performer, who instantly has us in her thrall. Though the show has been co-directed by Orion Stephanie Johnstone and Oh, it’s hard to imagine anyone reining in its star. And if the “first installation” of Oh’s latest show occurred when she stood on a soap-box in Times Square pontificating in 2014, it’s hard to say how it’s progressed since then. Unless you were there, you just wouldn’t know. [more]
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